Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested that democracy in the US “has a Facebook problem” after the company pulled ads last night that called for tech giants, including Facebook, to be broken up. The ads, which were later restored, were placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) presidential campaign over the weekend.
A growing chorus of lawmakers is calling for regulators and representatives to rethink how they enforce the country’s antitrust laws, especially on big tech companies like Facebook and Google, which were formerly the golden children of the US economy.
Just because a monopoly business happens to be online, that doesn’t mean it’s good.
Facebook may have its own problems, but it’s increasingly starting to look like our society (namely, our democracy) has a Facebook problem. https://t.co/AjWeAf2BY3
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 12, 2019
“Just because a monopoly business happens to be online, that doesn’t mean it’s good,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Facebook may have its own problems, but it’s increasingly starting to look like our society (namely, our democracy) has a Facebook problem.”
Shortly after Politico first reported that the ads were taken down, Warren responded in a tweet, calling out Facebook for exhibiting the same behavior her ads were trying to call attention to. “Curious why I think FB has too much power?” she said. “Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power. Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.”
Facebook claimed that the ads were taken down for using the company’s branding, but the move highlighted exactly how much power the company has over public discourse — and lawmakers noticed.
The ads were placed after Warren proposed a plan to break up giant tech firms on Friday. In a blog post, Warren suggested that acquisitions like Facebook’s purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp be spun back out into their own companies. She also proposed legislation that would bar companies like Amazon from using a platform that it operates to sell its own goods or services.
Calls for competition regulation are coming from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has also made it his mission to question the power of Big Tech. Congressional committees with antitrust jurisdiction have begun to hold hearings to discuss changes that could be made to the current interpretation of antitrust laws, and it’s clear that the debate won’t end anytime soon.